Tuesday, July 14, 2020

The case of Huawei: How that impacts Canada-China relations

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Huawei office in Canada | Raysonho via Wikimedia

In December 2018, Meng Wanzhou, the Chief Financial Officer for Huawei, a China-based tech company which is dominating the telecom supplies, was arrested in Vancouver, Canada on her flight stop to Mexico. This was done on a request from the USA with whom Canada has an extradition treaty. She was sought by the USA for allegedly dealing with Iran using an American banking system in spite of the sanctions placed on Iran by the country, in 2013. In May, Wanzhou lost the legal challenge to the extradition process, meaning that they will go ahead with the extradition proceedings.

Within days of Wanzhou’s arrest, two Canadian citizens in China were arrested on alleged accounts of spying. This is seen as a retaliation for the Wangzhou arrest by the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who says that there is a direct link between Wanzhou’s arrest and those of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig,  the Canadians who are detained in China. Though China has been tight-lipped about the link between the two, these two incidents are often raised jointly by the Chinese spokesperson. David Mulroney, former ambassador for Canada to China, has said that the officials in Beijing are mirroring the ongoing extradition case to that of the detained Canadians.

Although Mr. Trudeau has in the past repeatedly emphasized the need for good relations with China, and has enthusiastically worked on them to the point of agreeing to discuss a Canada-China extradition treaty. But the China-Canada relations already started souring much before the arrest after a trade deal fell through in 2017. Many major carriers in the country, some of which have been outspoken in their support of Huawei, have decided to shun the company and opt for western alternatives instead. One of them, Bell Mobility, even announced that it will use equipment from its Finnish rival, Nokia.

Huawei is considered a symbol for China’s technological prowess, and the arrest is seen by the Chinese Communist Party as an attack on its symbol of technological achievement. The Chinese state-owned newspaper the Global Times calls the act a “political persecution launched by the US, with the intention to contain China’s high-tech development.” The China Daily also criticized the court ruling as unfair and potentially harmful in mending the Canada-China relations.

There has also been a backlash from legal experts and family members of the detained Canadians on the Canadian policy of letting the extradition charges proceed and not going with a prisoner swap. Mr. Mulroney, however, feels that it would legitimize “hostage diplomacy”, which would put at risk all traveling Canadians for arbitrary arrests to gain political leverage. There is a stark difference between the condition of the hostages and that of Meng Wanzhou, for while the two prisoners spend their days in small cells in isolation, interrupted by interrogation and bland meals, Wanzhou lives in her Vancouver mansion, being happy about the fact that she can spend more time reading and oil painting, now.

The Canadian government is also claiming that it has to let the extradition process go on without political interference as to not compromise the independent, legal decision of surrendering the Huawei CFO. Mr. Mulroney has said that “it wouldn’t be the right thing to do. It would compromise the integrity of both our democracy and our justice system,” and that their values need to count for something. Brian Greenspan, a Toronto lawyer with experience on extradition cases, has said that the government has the power to withdraw from the extradition case, and that the lessons from a previous case in which political pressure affected an international case, are being applied wrongly here.

There are many sides to this tension, complicated by previous feuds, economic decisions, the detentions of the Canadians and Wanzhou and the difference between the political and the legal, and the many opinions on whether it should be that way.

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October 23, 2020 3:57 PM

Male gaze, their female guardians and sports-wear

In Helen Cixous’ essay, ‘The Laugh of Medusa’, she urges women to redefine what their body means to them, not just physically but also socially, emotionally and politically. This could happen by re-writing about your body in a way you deem  fit, the expression you identify with and separating it from how your body has been written about by men. The expression could be how you view your body separate from the patriarchal lense.

It is no secret that a woman’s body is subject to critique. While clothing for men is just a tool to cover themselves as per the surrounding environment, clothing for women isa social and political narrative that dictates their life or as we affectionately call it ‘culturally appropriate’.

The clothing style could vary. It could be a woman covered head to toe in a Burqa, it could be a woman who decides to wear sports-wear in a park or it could be jeans and a top. Everything is critically evaluated by men and by women who work towards protecting the male gaze.

The male gaze is a heterosexual way of looking at female bodies that sexualises these bodies into an object. It is a gaze that runs on the self-affirmative notion that the bodies of women, and what they do with it, is directly linked to how they  appear in front of a man.

In a recent incident in Bangalore, India, popular Indian actress Samyuktha Hegde was abused and threatened by senior political leader of the congress party, Kavitha Reddy,  for wearing sports-wear, in Bangalore’s Agara Lake park. She was exercising with her friend.

Kavitha Reddy initially claimed she was in indecent attire and went onto morally police and then later abused the actress and her friend.  A supposedly progressive political leader gets uncomfortable by what women are wearing. It breaks into an argument and a fight where the politician is supported by five to six men. Later on, the police appear to be appeasing the politician instead of the women who were harassed. Although she did apologise, her apology came after her video went viral, and as a protection for her own political reputation.

To look at Samyuktha Hegde’s clothing as a threat is to view her clothing as an act of obscenity therefore bullying her identity and sense of agency and reducing her to sexual object, who, by putting her in public, apparently gives the men present a right to look at her? Nevermind that she was there to workout like everyone else, her actions were confused as to how men look at her. In the video posted by the actress, the politician is surrounded by men who are championing her on. The politician choses to side with the patriarchal figures in shaming these women. Asking to protect from the male gaze is a far stretch but punishing women for the male gaze is where we should draw a line.

What roles does Kavitha Reddy play? She is the guardian of the male gaze. We find her in our mothers, in our grandmothers, in aunties and sometimes our friends. She understands a woman’s body as an object that is there to be looked at by men. She gets angry at women for wearing certain kinds of clothing but she is not angry at men for looking. The agency in this case always belongs to men.

When Cixous asks women to re-define their identity, she urges us to strangle the moral police that comes alive in such instances. It is the moral police that shames women for wearing clothes that don’t flatter their bodies or clothes that do flatter them. She urges us to reflect upon the source of such vigilance. Do we shame other women because we believe in what we are saying or our identity is partially (or  wholly) shaped by the male gaze?

Whether we chose to wear a burqa, or a dress, or variations of the new type clothing produced everyday, the crux of the matter is that it should not worry anyone apart from the one wearing it. The identity of a woman, sexual or otherwise, has to be redefined to be separated from the men and their gaze. We have to draw a line otherwise people in power will continue to abuse their power and preserve patriarchy and male gaze.

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